Getting involved

So, an update of being involved in Dementia action.

I am loving my new community, and who knew that the North East of England was so pro-active towards becoming Dementia friendly.   Not just pro-active but mega pro-active and I am loving being able to join and be part of it.

I have been very much welcomed by all I meet, and am excited for my future here to be able to be so involved.

Sunderland and Durham Heritage Coast:  I have already been to Crimdon Beach (which is absolutely beautiful and an important area for wildlife especially the Little Tern which come to breed there.  I have agreed (without any hesitation) to work with them helping make this part of the East Coast dementia friendly.

East Durham Area Action Partnership (AAP) –  I accompanied Belinda from the Alzheimer’s Society to a meeting where she did a presentation about the progression of dementia friendly East Durham.   I spoke about having moved to the area and how I was struck by the real sense of northern community and how it was important to encourage families caring for people with dementia to continue to make life as normal as possible and visit all of the places that are working hard to become dementia friendly.

Last week I visited Horden Welfare Park Vintage Cafe.

 This park has history to it and the park itself is a real gem to visit.   Originally paid for by the miners in the 1920’s it has one of Ray Lonsdales scultures called ‘Marra’ and depicts a miner after the pits were closed with his heart ripped out.  The cafe which is inside the park, put on afternoon tea and a walk around the park with a talk of its history.  Staffed by volunteers it is delightful, china teapots, cups and saucers, plates and delicious cakes and sandwiches on vintage cake stands.

A vintage cake stand

Me, being gluten free and not letting them know before hand, wasn’t able to eat any, however, they made me a salad not taking no for an answer!  How lovely of them and it was delicious too.

Upstairs they have created a small museum of Horden which is absolutely fascinating.  They have created a couple of rooms with furniture showing life in the miners cottages.  And the photograph collection they have is immense.

These are the local places which are making real efforts to become dementia friendly and will become a superb place for afternoon tea and a walk.

As I am working with these groups and getting to know the area the more I see how much there is to educate the community of families who have always cared for each other.  It is so easier for a family to do everything for someone and in that way they lose their independence and in a sense, their self.   Education about how important it is to continue to help a person living with dementia to keep doing as much as they can has to be the way to improve dementia friendly communities.   Take the person out for an afternoon locally many places and cafes are dementia friendly and a walk a cup of tea can brighten up everybody.  Find groups that someone with dementia can go to independently so that they get the chance to do things for themselves.

I think at some point I will give my take on carers another time and how helping their people to join more things and get out and about can actually help them as well.

Remember, as always these are my own thoughts and opinions.

🙂

 

Warts and beauty spots of dementia

Having dementia is like being on a roller coaster, with good times, and then a blip of an overwhelming day.   Mind you, life in general can be the same although with dementia it can feel just that bit more ghastly.  th-2So with an inane grin plastered across my face, (remember, smiling releases good endorphins) getting to a more positive state can be achieved adequately.

I’m getting there but thought I would share with you my thoughts so far.

My bathroom; yes it’s still empty; no I have not found help to sort it out yet; yes I am working on it.  The local Alzheimer’s Society have been brilliant in that respect and are working hard to help me.   I am feeling more positive because I might have finally found a company who are professional, use good quality products who can come in and start again and give me a bathroom.  Yay!!!  So, my overwhelming part is that I have to now find the information given me by Social Services to apply for a grant towards getting it done.  Then I have to see if I can get a loan to pay it, or see if the Company does finance preferable at 0% interest.   So, the beauty is that after 6 months of not being able to have a shower I am getting there.  The warts are that I really need someone to talk through this process with to make sure I am doing the best thing for me now that my judgement is somewhat rubbish these days through dementia.

Note to self:  for those of us living with dementia without family able to help us with decisions, it would be great to have a dementia advice line/support to chat to help us make better decisions.   Who can we talk these things over with now?  Someone who can ask us questions to make sure we are doing the right thing.   Is this something that we can put in place locally?   Actually this would work well for anyone who is vulnerable and who needs objective advice.  Hmmm food for thought….

staying-positive-fiOc

There are always positives to look forward to.   When my fibromyalgia is not bad (which it is at the moment – it will abate), I have a garden which will become my relaxing escape place to be in away from the world.  I am so excited thinking about the day when I can start it.  Once I have my bathroom finished, I can start saving to get it fenced, and then the gardening starts.  I am of course working on a 5 year plan!!!   I have a beautiful coastline to walk along, pick up sea-glass, watch the birds, embrace the sea breeze.

first-drink-the-coffee-then-i-do-the-stuff-one-3620267Positive actions:  sometimes just 10-15 minutes a day emptying yet another box from moving in will make me feel better, another strip of wallpaper scraped off the wall.  Continuing my creative textile course, sewing the next piece of work.  All these small things make my heart lighten.   Not least is being involved locally in action for Dementia, making my home town dementia friendly, educating, and just being involved is such an enjoyment in itself.

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So, on days when I feel alone and very overwhelmed with the things I used to be able to do without having to prepare myself, I try to look at what I love doing in my life, and what I have and what I can get excited about, and it works.

Take a deep breath, I just have to find a piece of paper I tidied away, make a simple phone call, ask some questions. Write it down so I don’t forget and can make sense of it.  

Today I can do these things.  Putting my pants on now.

 

 

When the S**t hits the fan…

..Turn the fan off..and…what next?

Okay, I have been hiding a bit of a trauma from you all.  I moved, you know that.  I have a lovely little bungalow that needs updating.  Late November I got a quote from a builder to replace my back boiler from the fireplace with a new combi boiler siting it in the attic space.   Rip out my bathroom and replace it with a shower and a vanity unit across the end wall.  Along with some other things to do with the radiators, flooring, skirting boards etc..  Boiler replaced.    Bathroom ripped out………………………………………………………….

They start 3rd December and I returned home on the 27th to find the brick sized tiles I requested for the shower now – 6″ x 8″.  The shower tray the height of 19″, no problem because they will build a step up to it.

The end wall vanity unit now – a cloak room sized sink with a small cupboard underneath and a small toilet suitable for a cloakroom.

Then:   No work, nothing.   I have been conned.  I am left with no money and no bathroom.   Before you ask, of course I knew what I should and shouldn’t have done, but I have dementia, I live on my own and still make stupid and bad judgements.    The builder tells me he is going into liquidation (with my money).

I cried for a whole day and night, then stopped because it doesn’t help me solve it.  I feel so alone in trying to sort this out right now but I am not downhearted because it is not the end of the world really is it?     The provision for support for people with dementia here in the North East of England is quite frankly non-existant, so there is no one for me to phone and say I just need some support through this.

So, I phoned the Citizens Advise Bureau Consumer Dept and they gave me advice in what to do next.  I have sent a legal letter giving them 7 working days to complete my building works (I think that this is enough in the circumstances) which they have received.  Next Wednesday I have to get some money together and start the process of taking them to Small Claims Court to get my money back or try to at least.

I have just had a quote to complete the shower so that I can wash properly which is reasonable at around £500 to include parts and labour.  At the moment I haven’t quite got that so will be saving in the next month or so to get it done.   The rest of the bathroom work will have to wait.

Dementia:  When my Doctors tell me that it doesn’t really affect me much yet I will beg to differ.  I believe that my judgement is very poor now.  I have been thinking about this and wonder if it is to do with being unable to read peoples faces and voices, or negotiate in my mind whether the words people say to me add up or not.  How do people make a judgement on whether to trust something or someone?  I guess it can be a combination of things, including experience, how they look, or sound, that is greatly diminished for me these days.  But, that doesn’t mean I will make the same mistake twice!!

For now, I have turned the fan off.  I will deal with it day by day without worrying too much because right now there is absolutely nothing I can do to change it.

 

Proud to present…..

This is my story in my own words with the help of journalist Penny Bell who is creating a series about dementia, you can follow her on Twitter here.  Or view Linkedln profile  here.

Discovering Dementia, Season 1, episode 3 Gill’s Story

I recommend you also listen to the first two episodes:

The first episode is with her Mum who was diagnosed with dementia.  This is lovely to listen to.

The second episode is recorded at the Alzheimer’s show held in London.   This will give you an idea of the shows that are worth a visit to learn everything about dementia, for people with dementia, family and carers.

I know Penny has more to come.   It was fun working together with her during the recording, especially as she came along with me to the YPWD (Young People with Dementia) gardening group which I love.

Groups for younger people with dementia are very important because it stops isolation if you live alone, enables fun activities which are age appropriate.  Younger people with dementia have different needs to elderly people.  We come from a different era, singing groups will focus on 60’s and 70’s music, nothing like having a good old sing song to ABBA and the like!   Not that I sing, in fact I have no singing voice at all, when I try to sing a weird soundless screech emerges that is not very pleasant.  If I am ever required to sing my miming abilities knows no bounds.

Sadly there are not enough groups that support younger people living with dementia throughout the county.  Especially groups that provide a wide range of activities such as walking groups, Kayaking, Art workshops, Poetry groups, gardening groups, furniture recycling… the YPWD offers all of these and more in the West Berkshire area.

 

 

 

 

Travelling with Dementia

My experience of holiday travel with dementia with hopefully some useful tips.

I recently had a wonderful holiday in Tobago.  I have fallen in love with the island as it is sheer paradise.  I felt there was nothing to do but relax, recover, swim, eat, relax, read books…..I read six books in a week, and exercised more than I have in months swimming several times throughout every day.

Travelling when you have dementia however early can be horrendous.  The trick is to plan well ahead.   Even with booking my ‘last minute’ holiday knowing what makes it less stressful helps the planning.  What works for me may not work for everyone but maybe I can say some things that you may not have thought about.

  1.  Getting to the Airport

I checked the coaches and the trains.   From where I live there is a train that goes from my small local station to Reading – a major station.  Then from Reading there is a train to Gatwick Airport in UK.  Gatwick Airport trains even has its own platform.  However, most of the trains that I wanted that day appeared to go to London which meant travelling across London by tube to another train station which is not good for me.  So I kept looking and found that a direct train to Gatwick Airport started at from 2pm and I booked that one.  From Reading to Gatwick Airport in one go – perfect for keeping distress down.

I need to know what platform the service goes from in advance, so that if I am on the station previously I check out the platform so that I know where it is.

2. Avoiding the stress of travelling

I worry.  I get distressed if I think I am going to be late if there is a time deadline because I have little sense of time these days, also because I know how unpredictable the train service can be with delays and breakdowns.

So, I looked for an overnight stay at an hotel at the airport.   I booked a room for my daughter and I online at the Hilton Gatwick South Terminal with a great deal.  Checked in online so that I only needed to pick the key up.  We both met up there, me being the first to pick up the keys and relaxed with a glass of wine whilst I waited for her.

Food – I knew from a previous experience that the hotel is a very short distance from the terminal so we went there for a cheaper meal that suited us fine.

In the morning we were up, showered and ready to go.

3. De-stressing at the Airport

We had pre-booked the Airport Lounge for a relatively small cost to wait for our flight after checking in our bags, which we also did online.  This makes things so much easier and quicker.  The Lounge offers a good range of breakfast, tea, coffee, drinks, newspapers, comfortable seats  which are all included in the price and is quieter.  It is definitely more relaxing that sitting in the general area with lots of people.   The bustle of people can be more stressful when you have dementia because it is overwhelming, so airport lounge is a great place to counteract that.

4.  The Flight

Choosing your airline and seat I think is important.  When you are fit and able you can tolerate a lot of things.  In the past I have flown with the cheapest Airlines and laughed at cramped conditions and poor service, but then have paid next to nothing for the flights.  Now I have dementia, I must make it an enjoyable experience from start to finish to have a good holiday experience.  One day I will not be able to travel so I want to make sure that I can make travelling pleasurable for as long as possible.

I choose a good airline.  Personally I fly with British Airways.  It is not the cheapest but has the attributes to make it better for me.  I usually pay a bit more and fly premium economy which is better than economy or standard.  With it you get more seat room, and are offered  a slightly better steward service.   This holiday I flew economy – ten and a half hours of wishing I had upgraded to have a little bit more room!  15 years ago it would have been absolutely fine but not now.   Now it is important to make things easier, less stressful and pleasurable as possible.

Walk about on a long flight.  I walk up and down and don’t care how ridiculous I look I join others in a bit of space to exercise.  I wish I had bought some flight socks, because my feet and legs started to swell on the flight home.

Drink Plenty of Fluids.   Thing is about dementia I forget to think about whether I have drunk enough liquids if I am not at home.  I usually drink copious amounts of tea and (weak) coffee throughout the day, its just automatic.  Cup empty = make another.   When I am out and about it is another matter.  I never think about eating or drinking.  I try and take a bottle of water with me when I’m out because it reminds me to drink.

So on a flight, you need to keep drinking a small cup of water every so often.  On my Tobago flight I found that the stewards did not come round constantly with glasses of water, but you could get up and ask for some whenever you wanted to, but I didn’t think to.  Finally when I was not feeling great I went back to get some water and was given a good amount and felt much better after that.  So you must remember just because someone with Dementia doesn’t ask, it is important to remember to keep drinking water during a long flight.

5.  The holiday

I have realised that it didn’t  matter if I didn’t travel to see much of the island.  Where I was was perfect for me.  It had the peace that I craved to enjoy myself.  We walked along the beach, up the coast road, to the local shop to buy water.  There’s a tale – there are some guys who are looking out for wives and we were followed by a guy with no teeth trying to tell us he was a good catch because he had a house and some land, he was also trying to tell me his age – 63, trying saying that without teeth!  Then a refuse truck came along, stopped and a young guy got out and started haranguing our follower to ‘leave the ladies alone’ and ‘stop harassing’ us.  It was very funny!

Even though there were far too many steps for my arthritis and fibromyalgia it didn’t matter, I found the route with the least steps to the beach – sorted.   Being comfortable with just watching the birds, sitting in the shade, a bit of swimming was a great holiday.

Returning home was the same.  I caught a direct train and it there was no stress.

Everything I do now I plan.  I am lucky enough to be comfortable with a computer and being online.  So I research.  I print everything out and I put it in a folder.  I print out itineraries for whatever I am doing if I am travelling so that I have one piece of paper for my handbag to check on ‘what do I do next’.

Next holiday is later this year so I shall be starting my planning a coupe of months ahead of time and start saving for it!

A trip to Parliament…

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Westminster, London.

(with London Eye in background!)

 

 

Before you start reading please remember that I do have difficulties with remembering and getting specific facts about things 100% correct… But these are my thoughts as I remember them.

 

 

It was cool inside Westminster building with great stone vaulted ceilings and carvings. My daughter and I stood looking down at our feet at the brass plaques declaring that Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother had lain in state at that spot. Other plaques gave the names going back.  Along the sides down steps are rooms like cellars with stone arches in the walls and a broad arched window letting in light. Alice from the Alzheimer’s Society led us to the end room where tables were pushed together surrounded by chairs. I was seated at the top along side Debbie Abrahams MP the Chair of the group, who is the Labour MP for Oldham East & Saddleworth. The room filled up mainly with men, interesting that there were so few women amongst these people.

I was invited by the Alzheimer’s Society to attend a meeting in Westminster to discuss strategies for having an holistic review during the yearly dementia review with your GP.
The meeting started with Andrew Boaden, Senior Policy Officer, Alzheimer’s Society giving an overview of the inquiries findings and the recommendations to Developing a GP-led annual holistic review for people living with dementia and comorbidities.    Then I was given my 5 minutes to talk about my personal experience of living with dementia and fibromyalgia taking some questions afterwards which was good. My 5 minutes included the fact that I have never had a review because I have been told I need to make the appointments myself, which is hard for me to do because I have no sense of time scale and little memory to do so. Calendars do not work for me because I forget to look at them daily, and unless I do that ‘thing’ immediately and not ‘I need to do that today’, I always forget.

When the discussion got going I was concerned that I kept hearing the word ‘elderly’. No mention of younger people with dementia…they had seemingly forgotten my introduction where I specifically highlighted Younger People With Dementia.
Dr Martin McShane, National Clinical Director for Long Term Conditions, NHS England spoke up that looking at ‘risk’ was a more important than reviews.
I wanted to say okay, but how do you know who is at risk if you don’t have any reviews? Sadly there was a long list of hands showing to speak so that it did not give me time.
I also wanted to say about those living alone and how an holistic could benefit them.
I did talk about my co-morbidities: Fibromyalgia, IBS, and said how times when my Fibro is flaring with lack of sleep, Fibro fog can mimic the confusion of dementia. If in a review it is not taken into account my dementia could be seen as worsening with confusion, but in reality it is my Fibromyalgia, which means that my lessens when my fibro has reduced.
It was interesting listening to them talk at a higher level, because these are the people who make the changes in the health system. Not sure they were convinced yet, apart from one person Dr Andrew Green GP clinical and prescribing subcommittee Chair, British Medical Association (BMA) who described how something very similar is working extremely well in his northern practice. Funded in a different way, it sounded like it was meeting this need already giving everybody, not just those with dementia, an holistic review on a regular basis. Sadly he also spoke NHS funding cuts would mean, this service would be a casualty of it.
All of the 6 women(out of 16) brought up equally important questions and discussion, and listening around the room at everybody I could hear that everyone has their own agenda according to their expertise and involvement.
At four on the dot the meeting was over and the next group was eager to get into the room to start theirs.
I talked to Alice, I enjoyed being here, this was good, I tell her, and we talk about other things I can get involved with………Oh this is not over yet, she answers, so watch this space..!

The worst hotel…

Recently stayed overnight in a hotel in Manchester.  I travelled up by train with someone from West Berkshire, train was packed but we had booked a seat thank goodness!

The hotel was The Place, Portland Street.  This is how it looked on the website:

Cheap hotel you think, looks nice and bright, clean has food, what more can you ask for?

When we arrived the front door sported a big shiny wellington boot for door handles….then inside the foyer many white umbrellas are hanging from the ceiling..and then I guessed that the theme of this hotel is RAIN.  Yes, I kid you not!   Within two weeks of the hotel being bought by the IBIS chain it was refurbished.

WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?    Did some design company sit round a table and thought, I know because it rains a lot in Manchester we will make a theme of it?    Which one of the designers thought it would be a good quirky idea?   WRONG.

It is certainly quirky, also in the foyer a low ‘wall’ in front of seating is a pair of black glasses, not sunglasses but clear glass.  What is that about?

Moving down the corridor to the lift the walls are now dark teal wallpaper with a weather map on showing highs and lows.   The wallpaper in the lifts are most odd, one which I liked was again dark teal with cats and dogs all over it – get it?  Raining cats and dogs; and in case you don’t understand it the words are etched on the mirror at the back.  The 2nd lift is yellow with clouds over it, not particularly pleasant looking.

I was fairly speechless when I saw the doors to the rooms – words can’t quite describe the hideous yellow decal covered doors made to look like front doors…and no it doesn’t stop there because the inside of the door was the same, and the bathroom door.   Now I would like to ask which idiot would think this is a good idea?  Have you not heard of disabilities that incorporate visual and cognitive impairments – these doors would certainly be a nightmare of confusion for people with dementia.

With dark and drab walls, with pictures of rain it is the most depressing hotel room I have ever stayed in, in my life.  Would I recommend it or stay there again =  NO NO NO.  In fact there other regular visitors to the hotel who said the same.

Hang on, I haven’t finished – Breakfast.  What a miserable looking attempt there was.  No cooked breakfast on offer, even though they have a restaurant at night there, just continental.  No imagination, cheap products, not particularly enticing.   I am Gluten Free and Dairy Free so was there anything I could eat?  I asked if there was any GF bread to toast and got the reply that they didn’t think so.  However they managed to find me 2 slices, no dairy free spread so, sorry Vegans you aren’t catered for either.  Thin slices of processed ham, cheese, some chopped up tomatoes, cucumber and hard boiled eggs.  No point me looking at the cereal, milk, or yoghurt.  So I had a slice of ham, tomatoes and cucumber with dry GF toast.  Quite frankly that is simply not good enough.  Bed and Breakfast for a single person around £108 for one night.

IBIS you have got this so wrong…..